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When it comes to fly fishing, the more you pay attention to details, the better angler you will become. There are certain tedious tasks like cleaning your reels and organizing your flies that most anglers refuse to do. As a result, their gear is more disheveled and does not last as long.
Other aspects of fly fishing like replacing your leader and tippet are not always enjoyable. If you fail to do this, however, you’re increasing your risk of scaring and losing fish. With a damaged leader and tippet the appearance of your fly is no longer natural and knots weaken the line.
When should I replace my leader?
As a beginner, you’ll likely find yourself with multiple knots in your leader at the end of the day. These knots occur when the timing of your casts is off. The more you jerk the fly around, the more opportunities it has to create knots in your leader.
If you’re a beginner, replace your leader after every day or two on the water. You’ll see the knots cause your leader to sit at different angles. The more knots in the leader, the less natural your fly looks. Fly fishing is all about presentation. You need to always provide as clean of a presentation as possible. If you have more than one knot in your leader, immediately replace it. Save yourself the headache of trying to untie a leader knot. The line is so small and soft there it is seldom any success.
How to replace a leader
When the leader is worn or has too many knots, cut it off at the fly line and attach a new leader with a nail knot. Every Wild Water package comes with a handy nail knot tool. You will also notice that as you replace tippet the leader will get thicker. Replace the leader well before that happens. A good rule of thumb is that if your leader is a foot shorter than it was when it was new, replace it. The last foot of a leader is the part you want to use for attaching flies or tippet.
When should I replace my tippet?
You need to replace your tippet two or three times throughout a day of hard fishing. It may require more replacements depending on how much abuse it sees.
If you regularly change flies, you’ll be replacing it when it gets too short. Keep at least a foot of tippet on your leader.
TIP - Your tippet is far more susceptible to knots than your leader. The light line can easily get tangled. As a result, you’ll need more finesse in your casts to keep it clean. Learn how to lay the line out flat when it lands on the water. Watch for the line when it is in the water and keep it straight so it doesn't get knotted.
As soon as your tippet has a knot in it, the presentation of the fly is no longer natural. The tippet will hold the fly at an unnatural angle and dissuade fish. They’ll see the line and know that something about the situation is wrong.
How to replace tippet
To attach your tippet to your leader and keep it natural, you’ll need to tie a double surgeon's knot. This knot is extremely strong and won’t get in the way of your casting. If you use other knots, your fly has more chance to get stuck on them while you’re casting.
Do I need to use tippet?
No. You can fish with just a leader but the leader will need to be changed after you use up about 12" of the tip portion. Using tippet extends the life of your leader.